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Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 09/28 – Jonny

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Wednesday, September 28th at 4pm in room 117. Jonny will continue discussing the paper “Binding alongside Hamblin alternatives calls for variable-free semantics” by Chung-chieh Shan. You can download the paper here, from the Google Drive. Remember you can also find the schedule here, where you can sign up for a slot!

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 09/21 – Jonny

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Wednesday, September 21st at 4pm in room 117. We will recap some of the things we covered in the first meeting regarding focus and composing alternatives and then Jonny will go through the paper “Binding alongside Hamblin alternatives calls for variable-free semantics” by Chung-chieh Shan. You can download the paper here, from the Google Drive. Remember you can also find the schedule here, where you can sign up for a slot!

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 09/14 – Michael & Jonny

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Wednesday, September 14th at 4pm in room 117. Michael and Jonny will be going through the paper “Alternative Semantics” by Mats Rooth. This will be an introduction to alternative semantics. You can also download the paper here, from Google Drive.
Remember to register in advance here to receive the Zoom link if you want to attend virtually.

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 09/16 – First Meeting

For this year’s edition of the syntax-semantics reading group, we will be trying something a little different. This edition will be more of a reading group as we will attempt to work through a number of papers together. The goal is to cover some of the literature concerning the use of alternatives in grammar (that is, we will explore the proposal that utterances invoke alternatives and the ramifications of such a proposal). In particular, we will aim to understand theories addressing how alternatives are introduced (and projected) in the grammar – both syntactically and semantically – and how this relates to the syntax-semantics interface. This will include looking at different theories in alternative semantics (and how alternative semantics interacts with the regular semantic framework), but also other theories which propose that alternatives are syntactic objects which are syntactically projected rather than semantically (and how these theories differ from the semantic ones). Here is a link to a Google doc which includes a list of potential readings (however, if anyone has any recommendations or anything else they’d like to read, please feel free to add it to the Google doc or let Jonny know!).
The reading group will primarily be in person, but I can make it hybrid if that makes it easier for anyone (in that case, I will circulate a Zoom link once the date and time are confirmed).
One thing to emphasize: Looking at alternatives is one focus of the reading group, but other presentations are always welcome. There will always be slots available for students who want to present their ongoing research and receive feedback (especially if people want to prepare for upcoming conference presentations)!
Finally, please remember to fill in the Doodle poll by September 5th.
Thanks, and please don’t hesitate to contact Jonny if you have any questions!

Syntax-semantics reading group, 4/1 – No Meeting

Syntax-semantics reading group, 3/25 – No Meeting

Syntax-semantics reading group, 3/18 – No Meeting

Syntax-semantics reading group, 3/11 – Gaurav Kamath

The next syntax-semantics meeting will take place this Friday, March 11th, at 3:30pm. Our next presenter will be Gaurav Kamath presenting his work, “Lexical semantics for expressives”.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 2/4 – Will Johnston

Our first meeting will take place this Friday, February 4th, at 3:30pm. Our first presenter is Will Johnston, who will present ongoing work, “Verb serialization as event-building: Evidence from Hmong”. 

Abstract: A key property of so-called ‘serial verb constructions’ (SVCs) is the notion that an SVC describes a single event. I take that notion seriously: I argue that certain types of SVCs are in fact reflexes of event-building in the syntax, and that their properties and distribution can be derived from independently motivated constraints on event structure. I examine two types of SVC found in Hmong (Hmong-Mien), and argue that they are both formed by merging multiple verbal roots within the event-building portion of the verbal projection (modeled using the first-phase syntax of Ramchand 2008).

Don’t forget to register for the meetings using the following link (you will only need to register once):
 https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpdu-sqDMqGtdIk5QyjSWSmkYGFwobg0yM

Syntax-semantics reading group, 01/28 – No Meeting

There will be no syntax-semantics meeting this Friday, January 28th. Instead, the first meeting will take place on February 4th at 3:30pm. In the meantime, you can register for the meetings using the following link (you will only need to register once):

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. You can also, start signing up for presentation slots using the following link (under the Winter semester):
This semester, presentation slots will be prioritized for graduate students presenting ongoing research. These presentations are informal talks where you can present your research; they serve as a great opportunity to practice presenting and receive feedback.

Syntax-semantics reading group meetings

This semester’s Syntax-Semantics reading group meetings will take place on Fridays from 3:30-4:30pm (except when there is a colloquium talk). The first meeting will take place on January 28th. There will be more information about the first meeting as we approach the date. In the meantime, you can register for the meetings using the following link (you will only need to register once):

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. You can also, start signing up for presentation slots using the following link (under the Winter semester):

 

Finally, if you are not on the email list and would like to be added, please send Jonny an email (jonathan.palucci@mail.mcgill.ca) so you can be added to the mailing list. Future announcements will be made through that.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 12/17 – Henry Davis

Our final presentation this semester will be Henry Davis and it will take place this Friday, December 17th at 2:30pm. Reminder that this week’s meeting will once again take place in a hybrid format, where the speaker and some of us will be in room 117, and others will be on Zoom as usual. We’d like to encourage students to come to the meeting in-person, there are still lots of spots available. Please email Jonny if you’d like to participate in the meeting in room 117. If it turns out that there are more than 12 people, priorities will be given to the 1st and 2nd year graduate students.
Edge asymmetries in V-initial systems – the view from Salish

Abstract: The Salish language family comprises (along with neighbouring families in the Pacific NW Sprachbund) one of the largest concentrations of V-initial systems in the world. Yet compared to better known V-initial families (e.g. Malayo-Polynesian, Mayan, or Celtic) it has had comparatively little influence on ongoing debates on the essential properties of such systems (or indeed, if such properties exist). I’m certainly not going to resolve those debates here, but I do want to bring some salient properties of Salish grammars to the table. I’ll be focusing on a fundamental asymmetry between the pre-predicative and post-predicative domains. The distribution of pre-predicative elements in many Salish languages is highly restricted – not surprisingly, given that such restrictions are constitutive of V-initial syntax – but in a rather particular way: it is the left edge which is restricted, not the pre-predicative domain in general. For example, a subject can occur pre-predicatively, but only if it is ‘shielded’ on its left edge by an auxiliary, leading to AUX-S-V-(O) order. I show that the shielding effect cannot be reduced to particular syntactic positions: both the shielded and the shielding element can be at different heights in the tree. Furthermore, left edge restrictions contrast with freedom on the right periphery: not only is post-predicative order flexible, but right-peripheral subjects can occupy positions at varying heights in the tree. I propose that specifiers can freely merge either to the left or right, but are independently restricted by the left edge constraint, accounting for the asymmetry. Finally, I speculate that the left edge constraint is fundamentally – though not necessarily directly – prosodic in nature: it can be violated just in case a left peripheral element constitutes its own intonation phrase.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 12/10 – No Meeting

There will be no syntax-semantics reading group meeting this week. Our final presentation this semester will be Henry Davis and it will take place on December 17th at 2:30pm. That week’s meeting will once again take place in a hybrid format, where the speaker and some of us will be in room 117, and others will be on Zoom as usual. We’d like to encourage students to come to the meeting in-person. Please email Jonny if you’d like to participate in the meeting in room 117. If it turns out that there are more than 12 people, priorities will be given to the 1st and 2nd year graduate students.

Edge asymmetries in V-initial systems – the view from Salish

Abstract: The Salish language family comprises (along with neighbouring families in the Pacific NW Sprachbund) one of the largest concentrations of V-initial systems in the world. Yet compared to better known V-initial families (e.g. Malayo-Polynesian, Mayan, or Celtic) it has had comparatively little influence on ongoing debates on the essential properties of such systems (or indeed, if such properties exist). I’m certainly not going to resolve those debates here, but I do want to bring some salient properties of Salish grammars to the table. I’ll be focusing on a fundamental asymmetry between the pre-predicative and post-predicative domains. The distribution of pre-predicative elements in many Salish languages is highly restricted – not surprisingly, given that such restrictions are constitutive of V-initial syntax – but in a rather particular way: it is the left edge which is restricted, not the pre-predicative domain in general. For example, a subject can occur pre-predicatively, but only if it is ‘shielded’ on its left edge by an auxiliary, leading to AUX-S-V-(O) order. I show that the shielding effect cannot be reduced to particular syntactic positions: both the shielded and the shielding element can be at different heights in the tree. Furthermore, left edge restrictions contrast with freedom on the right periphery: not only is post-predicative order flexible, but right-peripheral subjects can occupy positions at varying heights in the tree. I propose that specifiers can freely merge either to the left or right, but are independently restricted by the left edge constraint, accounting for the asymmetry. Finally, I speculate that the left edge constraint is fundamentally – though not necessarily directly – prosodic in nature: it can be violated just in case a left peripheral element constitutes its own intonation phrase.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 11/26 – No Meeting

There will be no syntax-semantics reading group meeting this week. We will resume the following week.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 11/19 – Tessa Scott

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, November 19th at 2:30pm. Tessa Scott will be presenting her work “Object licensing in San Juan Atitán Mam”.

Abstract: In Mam, and a subset of other Mayan languages, ergative subjects are restricted from undergoing A-bar extraction. A camp of analyses attribute the inability of extracting ergative subjects to movement of the transitive object above the subject (Campana 1992, Ordóñez 1995, Coon et al. 2014, Coon et al. 2021). Coon et. al. (2014) tie this movement to the case licensing of the object by Infl. Crucially, languages which license objects low via Voice do not show the syntactic ergativity effects. New data from San Juan Atitán Mam requires us to think more about this correlation, as we see evidence that objects are licensed low by Voice but nonetheless move above subjects causing an ergative extraction restriction in the language. I propose that SJA Mam does not fit neatly into the “high-/low-abs” distinction, as it generally has “high” Set B morphemes, and restricts ergative argument extraction, yet licenses objects via Voice.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 11/05 – Michael Wagner

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, November 5th at 2:30pm. Michael Wagner will be presenting his work “Projecting and Operating over Syntactic Alternatives”. This is a continuation of his previous talk.

 

Abstract: Many grammatical phenomena have been analyzed based on the assumption that constituents can introduce semantic alternatives, and that these alternatives can project in a pointwise fashion, following Hamblin’s 1973 analysis of questions. Katzir (2007) argued that at least sometimes, alternatives are structural. This presentation provides new arguments compatible with this view, which suggest that expressions can introduce syntactic alternatives, that these alternatives can “project” in a pointwise fashion, and that grammar can operate over sets of linguistic expressions. The evidence, some of which from online experiments, comes from data involving disjunction, coordination, and focus.  If true, this raises interesting questions about the architecture of grammar.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/29 – No Meeting

There will be no syntax-semantics reading group meeting this week. Since NELS is taking place this Friday (and continuing throughout the weekend), everyone is encouraged to attend that instead and listen to some interesting talks! We will resume meeting on Friday, November 5th at 2:30pm.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/15 – Jonny Palucci

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 15th at 2:30pm. Jonny Palucci will be discussing the paper “Affected Experiencers” by Bosse et al. The paper can be downloaded here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11049-012-9177-1.

Abstract: Numerous languages permit an NP that is not selected by the verb to be added to a clause, with several different possible interpretations. We divide such non-selected arguments into possessor, benefactive, attitude holder, and affected experiencer categories, on the basis of syntactic and semantic differences between them. We propose a formal analysis of the affected experiencer construction. In our account, a syntactic head Aff(ect) introduces the experiencer argument, and adds a conventional implicature to the effect that any event of the type denoted by its syntactic sister is the source of the experiencer’s psychological experience. Hence, our proposal involves two tiers of meaning: the at-issue meaning of the sentence, and some not-at-issue meaning (an implicature). A syntactic head can introduce material on both tiers. Additionally, we allow two parameters of variation: (i) the height of the attachment of Aff, and (ii) how much of the semantics is at-issue and how much is an implicature. We show that these two parameters account for the attested variation across our sample of languages, as well as the significant commonalities among them. Our analysis also accounts for significant differences between affected experiencers and the other types of non-selected arguments, and we also note a generalization to the effect that purely not-at-issue non-selected arguments can only be weak or clitic pronouns.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/8 – Zoë Belk

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 8th at 2:30pm. Zoë Belk will be presenting joint work with Kriszta Eszter Szendrői, “Word order in Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish”.

 

Abstract: Yiddish has been variously argued to be an OV language with innovative VO effects, a VO language with remnants of OV characteristics, and even as a mixed VO-OV language where the verb has the ability to govern its nominal object in both directions. Based on novel Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish data, we propose that, whatever the correct analysis of historical varieties of the language, Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish is unequivocally VO. We enumerate the remnant OV characteristics and provide an analysis for them that is compatible with an underlying VO syntax of the VP. Specifically, we show that, unlike historical varieties of the language, Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish does not allow true scrambling while retaining A-bar scrambling for contrastive topicalised or focused constituents; complex predicate formation remains verb final while the VP itself is head initial; and weak pronominal objects are restricted to a position right adjacent to the finite verb, a fact which is orthogonal to the issue of word order in the VP itself.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/1 – Michael Wagner

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 1st at 2:30pm. Michael Wagner will be presenting his work, “Projecting and Operating over Syntactic Alternatives”.

Abstract: Many grammatical phenomena have been analyzed based on the assumption that constituents can introduce semantic alternatives, and that these alternatives can project in a pointwise fashion, following Hamblin’s 1973 analysis of questions. Katzir (2007) argued that at least sometimes, alternatives are structural. This presentation provides new arguments compatible with this view, which suggest that expressions can introduce syntactic alternatives, that these alternatives can “project” in a pointwise fashion, and that grammar can operate over sets of linguistic expressions. The evidence, some of which from online experiments, comes from data involving disjunction, coordination, and focus.  If true, this raises interesting questions about the architecture of grammar.

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